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The Last Word

News/Business. (2012) New.

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Citi 7, Washington 6, Charles Durning 6, Us 5, Lawrence 4, Obama 4, Boehner 4, Durning 4, Romney 3, John Boehner 3, Bob 3, Florida 3, Harry Reid 3, Copd 3, Hawaii 2, New York 2, Malawi 2, Advair 2, Prius 2, Leslie 2,
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  MSNBC    The Last Word    News/Business.  (2012) New.  

    December 26, 2012
    7:00 - 8:00pm PST  

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brother do? they produced another "quincy" episode which passed the bill very much like the orphan drug act of 1982. with the help of a crowd of extras, all these extras were suffering from orphan diseases in real life. they went outside the capitol and shamed the senate into helping. what is now known as the waxman hatch or man drug act became law. jack klugman pretty much enrolled orren hatch, not an easy thing to do. jack klugman lived a famous life that's worthy of note. he didn't just save lives on tv, he saved lives. may he rest in peace. we'll see you tomorrow. don't forget to check out my blog on the "washington post." now it's time for lawrence o'donnell. have a great night.
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ovh, i guess it is showtime. i'm actually trying to finish my christmas shopping. a little bit behind, but, you know, on-line shopping, it will get done. plenty of time to do it during the commercial breaks. let's do this show. with only three business days left until we go off the fiscal curb, says the teleprompter, republicans and democrats are exactly where i always thought they would be. not even close to an agreement. >> christmas is over and most people have the day off. >> we have a dysfunctional congress, but the politicians are still pretending to work. >> people don't like congress. >> it is up to the senate to act. >> harry reid is working on legislation. >> harry reid, the congress and the president. >> the president is cutting his hawaii vacation short to deal with the fiscal cliff. >> really, it's kind of like falling down stairs.
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we have a dysfunctional congress. >> speaker boehner needs to bring his party along. >> it's pretty clear that he could not bring them along. >> john boehner doesn't seem to have full control of his caucus. >> they were this close. >> the republicans will be blamed. >> they were this close to a solution. >> we're going to head over that cliff. >> i know it's hard for the republicans. the minute those leaders move forward, they get viscerated. >> guns shouldn't be available for anyone, any time, anywhere. >> the conversation still wages on. >> its plan to add more guns to schools. >> a completely dumb-ass idea. >> i don't think the nra is listening. >> you can call it whatever you want to call it. >> congress hasn't confirmed the director of the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms. >> dysfunctional, dysfunctional, dysfunctional congress.
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>> we're not going to allow what has happened in the past to go on. >> congress has just three business days to pass legislation to avoid going over the fiscal curb. president obama has cut his hawaii vacation short and is on his way back to washington. the democratic senate will be in session tomorrow but the republicans are staying home. the republican aides tell nbc news that the house will not be in for business tomorrow. they released the statement calling on the senate to act first. senate majority leader harry reid quickly responded with a statement of his own. how else republicans pushed middle class families closer to the cliff by wasting an entire week with their incompetent plan b stunt. it is time for house republicans to put middle class families first by passing the senate's
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bill to protect 98% of americans from a tax hike on january 1st. the senate bill could pass tomorrow if house republicans would simply let it come to the floor. despite the impasse in washington, a new gallup poll shows 50% of people still believe it is likely that president obama and republicans will reach an agreement before we go over the curb on january 1st. among the believers is conservative weekly standard editor bill crystal. >> i think what will happen is republicans will be faced on monday, on december 31st, with having to vote on a much worse proposal than the one they didn't give speaker boehner the majority for. >> plan b. do we end up going over the cliff or not? >> i think not. on december 31st when both party members release their voters to vote their conscience, they save americans from a tax hike.
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>> the gallup poll shows 54% approve of how president obama is handling the vote, 26% approve of how speaker boehner is handling negotiations. 45% democratic leaders approve and 26% gop leaders approve of how they're handling the situation. chief washington correspondent and political writer for the "new york times," and robert reich. he's also the author of "beyond outrage." john, you can tell us all the maneuverings and meetings that have gone on all day between the house administration and their staff. just catch us up on everything, john, all the big news that happened today. >> right here, lawrence. nothing. nothing happened. but i have to say, though, i'm
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still with bill crystal and that 50% tooth fairy crowd in thinking the republican leadership in the senate and then, as a result of that, in the house are going to decide that they've already taken enough punishment. the punishment will get worse after january 1st and that ultimately they will accept, at least temporarily, perhaps not as a permanent solution, but at least temporarily, the deal that bill crystal says was worse than the one they rejected from a republican point of view that they rejected in the plan b proposal, because the outcome of this at the end of the day is pretty clear, and even people who are stubborn idealogically understand where their political bread in the long run is buttered as a party and those poll numbers showed a lot of the story that you just showed. >> let's listen to what chuck shimmer says he thinks will happen if we do go over the cliff. >> make no mistake about it, if we go over it, and god forbid, i
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still don't think we have to, the american people will blame the republican party and they'll come right back and pass something. i don't think the middle class is at risk. if we go over the cliff, our republican colleagues will come back and say, uh-oh, and then pass the bill we passed in the senate already. >> i think chuck speaks for most democrats in washington. they have the firm belief that if we go over the so-called cliff, the republicans will actually act very quickly, and that is part of why democrats aren't so afraid of going over the cliff. >> that's exactly right, lawrence. the problem is, with the fanatics in the house of representatives who would not even vote for an extension on the bush tax cut for everybody. they didn't even want millionaires to have any increase in taxes. those fanatics, being as fa nat cal as they are, might not even
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do what most of us assume they would do if we went over the curb and eventually come around. in other words, even the republicans as a whole are taking a shellacing in the polls, individual republicans, when they go back to their districts, they're most worried about being attacked from the right, having a primary challenger in 2014 from the right. so it's not exactly clear right now that the democrat strategy which i have been touting and you have been touting and most of us assume will be the strategy if we go over the curb, that is, come up with a bill that provides a middle class tax relief retroactive to the first of january, it's not 100% sure that's going to work any longer now that we know now fanatical the fanatics are. >> john, tell me how the republicans who refuse to go on with the boehner plan b could somehow, between now and new year's eve, go along with something else that was possibly
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less attractive to them. what is the story that they would then tell that they felt they couldn't tell last week? i'm just having trouble imagining how the republicans who have been against this somehow line up for something. >> well, two-part answer to the question, lawrence. the first is the house republican caucus is insulated from national public opinion as secretary reich indicated. but they're not impervious to it. in the wall street journal poll, the republican party has been under water in terms of its reputation for six years in a row. so people are absorbing the fact that the american people look at the republican party as more idealogical and less flexible, less open to compromise. but the second part is it would not necessarily be a concession
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by the people who are uttering the primal scream over spending within the house republican party, it's more the leadership, and in particular, the speaker taking the risk of being willing to put on his floor, his house floor, a bill that would not command a majority of the republican majority. and allow it to pass with democratic votes and some republicans. at some point, john boehner goes there. i don't know if that's going to be on december 31st or the first week of january. if it's not the first week of january, i think it would be fairly soon after that, because again, the reason why smart people like tom cole and bob corker and john cornen have said we ought to give on the tax cuts of people under 250,000 is they know that's where the thing is going to end up unless they cut some deal and bring their caucus along on some higher threshold. the president offered 400,000. they could get that. they could probably get 500,000. >> go ahead, bob.
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>> i was going to say now is the time when we really find out whether republican leadership is an oxymoron. we not only have to rely on john boehner having enough leadership and guts and gumption to put something on the floor his republicans are not going to vote for, but we also have to agree to go through with a bill before the senate that is basically what the president wants so it can put pressure on the republicans and the house. >> he did it in 2011 on the debt limit. >> yes, that's right. that's what people are hoping for. >> there's something fascinating to all of this. ben bernanke gave this situation the name fiscal cliff which sounds very dramatic and very scary. but what it is is an act of congress that they actually voted for. 174 republicans voted for this law that would then take effect
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on january 1st with all these spending cuts in it, and democrats -- 95 democrats in the house voted for it, 74 votes for it in the united states senate, and now congress is afraid of actually going through something that it voted for to occur on january 1st because it all feels too dramatic to them. and so there's something very peculiar. the crisis that congress is facing is can they undo something that they voted for, and can they undo it by new year's eve? >> it's irony and paradox upon irony. remember the reason the fiscal cliff is supposed to be so dangerous and the reason why so many people in washington are worried about the fiscal cliff is it's too much deficit reduction too fast. so all of this takes place against a debate about how to
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reduce the budget deficit. that's why you get into this theater of the absurd. >> well, and look at the tape you showed at the opening of the program with keith boykin over and over again showing the dysfunction of congress. they made this so onerous with the belief it would make them do something less onerous and now they're right up against it. >> they really know how to make these crises happen. political correspondent and writer, john howard, thank you very much for joining me and former labor secretary robert reich, thank you for joining me tonight. coming up, the nra has done much more damage than you think. and they've made gun ownership much harder to trace. and the romneys keep trying new explanations for why mitt lost. but they aren't getting any closer to the truth. and as some of you on twitter already know, i am wearing a
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christmas gift or two on the show tonight. there is still time to tweet your guesses about what it is. the answer to what christmas gift or gifts am i wearing is coming up. abetes... your doctor will say get smart about your weight. that's why there's glucerna hunger smart shakes. they have carb steady, with carbs that digest slowly to help minimize blood sugar spikes. [ male announcer ] glucerna hunger smart. a smart way to help manage hunger and diabetes. time for citi price rewind. because your daughter really wants that pink castle thing. and you really don't want to pay more than you have to. only citi price rewind automatically searches for the lowest price. and if it finds one, you get refunded the difference. just use your citi card and register your purchase online.
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some of the guesses from twitter about what my christmas gift is that i'm wearing tonight, some of the wrong guesses. a superhero outfit. that was john who guessed that. nicole, donald trump's toupee. sorry, nicole, that's not it. all the sweaters were wrong. teresa smith, close. cashmere socks, she says. i hate woolen socks. but yeah, i actually didn't realize i was wearing christmas gift socks, which i am right there, with the vans. i didn't realize it until someone tweeted that as a guess. what i was thinking, of course,
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was what john then for you rosary guessed was a necktie. i actually ask for neckties for christmas and birthday. that's how boring i am about gifts. but in this job, you never have enough neckties. so yeah, it was the necktie, and gay apostolics actually guessed tie and socks, so the big winner tonight on the twitter guessing game, gay apostolics. we'll be back. well, if it isn't mr. margin.
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mr. margin? don't be modest, bob. you found a better way to pack a bowling ball. that was ups. and who called ups? you did, bob. i just asked a question. it takes a long time to pack a bowling ball. the last guy pitched more ball packers. but you... you consulted ups. you found a better way. that's logistics. that's margin. find out what else ups knows. i'll do that. you're on a roll. that's funny. i wasn't being funny, bob. i know.
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considering congress doesn't confirm the director of the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms in six years, the agency that works most closely with state and local law enforcement to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals, i suggest that they make this a priority early in the year. >> even if the senate eventually does confirm president obama's pick for atf director, the director will be unable to do that job effectively. according to today's "new york times," the bureau is prohibited from creating a federal registry of gun transactions when law enforcement officers recover a gun and serial number, workers at the bureau's national tracing center begin making their way through a series of phone calls asking the first manufacturer, then the wholesaler, and finally the dealer to search their files
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to identify the buyer of the firearm. about a third of the time, the process involves digging through records sent in by companies that have closed. in many cases, searching by hand through cardboard boxes filled with computer printouts, hand-scrawled index cards or even water-stained sheets of paper. the atf uses this method because the idea of establishing a central database of gun transactions has been rejected by lawmakers in congress who have sided with the national rifle association which argues that such a database poses a threat to the 2nd amendment. on friday, david keane, the president of the nra, said this. >> next week we will be available to any of you who are interested in talking about these or other issues of interest to you, so contact us, please, at that point.
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we will be willing to talk to anybody beginning on monday, and i look forward to talking to you and answering any of your questions next week. >> well, not exactly anybody. we've been asking the nra to come on this program since he said that on friday. we've been told that no one is available. we'll see if someone from the nra becomes available tomorrow night. joining me now is william bizard who was a special agent for 23 years and msnbc political analyst carolyn finney. i was shocked reading the new york sometimes that the atf has been, in effect, so disabled by this nra lobbying just on how we try to keep track of gun transactions. >> oh, it's more extensive than simply keeping track of gun
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transactions. they've been disabled largely by the firearms owners protection act of 1986 or the biltmore act, among other things. their ability to control dealers who violated the law was very limited, even though a majority of dealers don't, but there are a certain percentage that do. controlling unlicensed dealing is virtually impossible, and the original gun control act of '68 didn't really extend much authority to the a.t.f. and the '86 statute cut that back substantially. so in addition to other controls that have been placed on a.t.f., the underlying law really does not provide them the mechanism to regulate gun commerce. >> karen finney, there is nothing in what we learned today about how the nra has its hands
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tied that is in any way involving the constitutional right to bear arms. the constitutional right to bear arms stands there unmolested, and then there's the a.t.f. just trying to do a basic job that the nra has successfully lobbied to prevent them from doing. so the whole issue of the kinds of legislation we really need in the gun arena is a much wider range of legislative vehicles than anyone is really contemplating right now. >> but also, lawrence, when we talk about common sense, one of the most interesting things when you said you were shocked, i did some research a while back, and i think most americans would be shocked to find out. because it's unthinkable -- i've used this example before -- i can't buy sudafed one day early because of the computer database
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that tracks how much you buy and when you buy it. i think most americans in polls are shocked to realize there isn't a system where, for example, a police officer, let's say in aurora, colorado would know that someone in their community was amassing large amounts of ammunition or weapons. or they're destroyed within 24 hours because somehow that is an impingement on the 2nd amendment rights. we have to take a very different approach, i think, and talk about the responsibility of these rights and not just sort of erring -- far erring on the side of supposedly protecting gun owners. what about protecting -- again, we talked about the protective right to vote and other areas where we also have responsibilities. >> when you were an a.t.f. agent, what were the tools you need nd law that you didn't have? what frustrated you the most about what you weren't able to
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do? >> it depends whether you're looking at the original '68 law or whether you're looking at the post-'86. there has never been an effective system of recording gun transactions. it's not just an issue of tracing. let me give you an example. the nra has been the most very h -- vehement critic of the fast and furious fiasco, which was a substantial error, but in that case the a.t.f. didn't provide the weapons, it just didn't intervene on the surface of what were, in fact, probably illegal sales. but they have consistently lobbied for a law that allows any individual in many states to walk in and buy as many weapons as they want of any type and walk out the door with them at that moment without any check,
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without any -- other than a criminal record check. so, for instance, in the issue of gun trafficking to mexico, an individual can walk in and buy 50 ak-47 type. not ak-47s, but ak-47 type military semiautomatic rifles and walk out the door with them. you know, a.t.f. isn't essentially aware of this. there is no notification. there is no central database. you don't know if the person goes down the road and buys another 25 or 50. this has been the historic pattern in trafficking to states like new york that have more strict firearms regulation out of areas like south carolina, virginia. so what's missing are a whole series of things. some sort of national database -- >> and -- >> -- better laws restricting
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unlicensed dealers. our clear definition of who is a dealer, stricter controls on dealers, reinstituting felony crime for falsifying records. currently if you walk into a dealer and audit that dealer and they're missing 1,000 guns, and this literally has happened, and they can't explain where the thousand guns went and you obviously know that they were sold somehow unlawfully, the most you can charge them with is a misdemeanor, and no u.s. attorney will charge a misdemeanor. there just isn't room for it in the federal court. >> you know, warren, if i could, think about the hipocrisy that you have. it's a total pr trick to try to divert attention from the things we're talking about here that i think most americans would be shocked to find out are not in place. what is the nra trying to do in the wake of these tragedies? talk about mental health, talk about video games, for heaven's
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sakes, when they really should be acknowledging that these kind of systems are very much needed. >> former a.t.f. agent william vizzard, thank you very much. karen finney, thank you very much for joining me tonight. >> you're welcome. coming up, the poor romneys are still struggling to explain why mitt lost. their latest explanation, we can only hope, is the last romney lie of 2012. copd makes it hard to breathe, but with advair, i'm breathing better. so now i can be in the scene. advair is clinically proven to help significantly improve lung function. unlike most copd medications, advair contains both an anti-inflammatory and a long-acting bronchodilator working together to help improve your lung function all day. advair won't replace fast-acting inhalers for sudden symptoms and should not be used more than twice a day.
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people with copd taking advair may have a higher chance of pneumonia. advair may increase your risk of osteoporosis and some eye problems. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure before taking advair. if you're still having difficulty breathing, ask your doctor if including advair could help improve your lung function. get your first full prescription free and save on refills at advaircopd.com. a hybrid? most are just no fun to drive. now, here's one that will make you feel alive. meet the five-passenger ford c-max hybrid. c-max says ha. c-max says wheeee. which is what you get, don't you see? cause c-max has lots more horsepower than prius v, a hybrid that c-max also bests in mpg. say hi to the all-new 47 combined mpg c-max hybrid.
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so i thought i knew this guy. but i didn't know the half of it. i knew he was an oscar-nominated actor, a great actor who i had the pleasure of working w bith, but i found out today the most fascinating part of his life, the part that would make a great movie. and all of that happened before he became an actor. and i learned that today in his obituary. that's in tonight's rewrite.
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in the spotlight tonight, the public musings of losers. here's how mitt romney explained why he lost to president obama just days after the election. >> what the president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them
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extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked. >> that explanation got mitt romney attacked and condemned by the likes of bobby jindahl and other republicans. they're now trying a new approach. tag romney said this about his father. he wanted to be president less than anyone i knew in my entire life. he had no desire to run, says tag, who worked with his mother and to persuade his father to seek the presidency. if he could have found someone else to take his place, he would have been ecstatic to step aside. too bad he never told newt gingrich that. joining me now, msnbc's joy reed. i'm on the verge of feeling
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sorry for them, trying to come up with these crazy reasons about why he lost. and now they want to pretend that this guy who lived his whole life in order to run for president didn't really want to run for president. >> yeah, i know, lawrence. there is nothing more failing than failing to win something and say, i didn't want to win, anyway. who wants that. the problem with that, of course, is the history. we know that mitt romney didn't want to be president so badly he tried to do it twice. we know that no one that lived in massachusetts in 1994 believes that had he beaten ted kennedy that mitt romney wouldn't have been a candidate for president in the year 2000. he then ran for president two times and ran scorched earth campaigns against not the general election, his primary opponent. as you said, ask newt gingrich. ask the guys who ran against him in the '08 primary, giuliani, ron paul and the others, if this guy didn't want to be president.
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he pushed ron paul's delegate out of congress to push him out of the nomination. he did everything he could to become president and he failed. >> richard, does no one in the romney family have any kind of ear for what honesty sounds like? >> well, i'm not sure if they know what humanity looks like. you know, they said the romney sons say they cannot think of a poe person who wants to be president less than their father. i suggest they meet more people, because there's a lot of people who don't want to be president, and here's the paradox that runs through the entire romney campaign, which is you had somebody desperate to be president and who was deathly uncomfortable to be a candidate for president. you can't message over it, it's not about the 370,000 votes they lament were not theirs and would have won them the election.
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only 370,000 votes. if you're al gore and you lose an election by an ex krus ating close margin, then you have the right to lament the margin of defeat. but 370,000 votes is not a slow margin of defeat. they are slow to comprehend what happened in the election, who that father is and why on earth the country couldn't relate to a man who didn't want the campaign to be president. >> let's listen to what the romney son's story used to be. >> i was really reluctant. i didn't want i am to do it. i tried to convince him not to. i know you didn't, but i just felt like for us as a family, this wasn't the best thing, but josh said as a country, we think it's the right thing. >> so dad didn't want to run for president but the kids couldn't convince him to not run for president. i guess, you know, they just didn't think anyone would roll that videotape with this latest
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new spin. i want to get more into this boston globe article because it's kind of a fascinating look back at what the romney campaign didn't understand. there is this from the globe. in florida, for example, the romney campaign said it had fewer than 200 staff members on the ground, a huge commitment of its total of 500 nationwide, but the obama campaign had 770 staff in florida out of 3,000 or so nationwide. they had more staff in florida than we had in the country and for longer, said romney adviser ron kaufman. joy reed, it is astounding to me that this would come as a big surprise to them. this is the kind of thing that you can check, keep pace on what the other campaign is doing. >> absolutely. it was no secret the obama campaign had those boots on the ground really since 2008. they never really left. the thing is, you really see the
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hubris of mitt romney and of his campaign, because they didn't even believe they needed staff. they didn't believe they needed staff in places like ohio which is critical to any presidential candidate. i believe the reason to that goes to something that mitt romney's brother said about him, scott romney. the older brother of mitt romney told pbs this year about mitt, i think he believes he's the only person in this position who can straighten out this country. there was this belief that mitt had that it was self-evident that he must be president, that he's the only one that can save the country from barack obama. and it was evident in the fact that it didn't bother him to change everything about himself, everything about his past, everything about his former beliefs to repudiate his governorship, whatever it took, because he had this belief, as did ann romney, as did his kids, that he was desperate to become our president. >> 700 nationwide that romney had for a presidential campaign
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just kind of a mazes me. i want to go on to another thing in the globe. it's beth meyers. she was worried about the campaign's appeal to women voters. she says to the globe, i wish i had expressed my deep concern more vociferously at that point. this was may/june when they really went on the offense, meyers said. i remember thinking, this bothers me. well, richard, that's nice. this bothers you. it's only a majority of the vote, the women's vote. kind of think you would mention if it bothered you in a real campaign. >> if you're senior adviser, you don't say that until after the election. you try to do it at the moment you can make a difference. look, there is something bigger here that joy was touching on, which is not just a self-belief that they had, and this isn't just a romney problem, it's a republican party problem, arguably the entire problem facing the conservative
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ecochamber right now. they were delusional about the whole presidency, about president obama himself. it was so self-evident to him that he was incompetent, that this president was a fluke, that his support had just faded away and that the an tianti-obama fo were so heavy that it was going to be a cinch. you didn't need to speak up when this whole thing was going on, because obama was such an idiot, he had to lose. that's the moment they are now in. how could that world view have been wrong? you don't need to invest in people, you don't need to put ar ads up if you're going against an incompetent president. >> it's fascinating reading this globe stuff, because in a way there are no surprises in it, meaning the romney campaign turned out to be as ridiculous inside as it appeared to be from the outside. there was no -- there was nothing surprising going on in
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there. richard wolf, executive editor, and joy reed, managing editor, thank you for joining me. >> thank you. coming up, i'm actually going to finish my christmas shopping right here on tv. that's right, i haven't finished, but on-line shopping. guess what i'm going to buy on line as gifts nofor my friends d coworkers? take a guess. c-max has a nice little trait, you see, c-max helps you load your freight, with its foot-activated lift gate. but that's not all you'll see, cause c-max also beats prius v, with better mpg. say hi to the all-new 47 combined mpg c-max hybrid. this is another! ta-daa! try charmin ultra strong. it cleans so well and you can use up to four times less
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with the great character actors, there comes a moment where you are forced to say, who is that? you know who the stars of the movie are, and you knew that before you went to see the movie. but you don't know who those character actors are, those supporting actors. when i went to see "dog day afternoon," i knew i was going to see an al pacino movie. he was already a huge star from "the godfather." i expected a great movie from one of the greatest directors in the history of film. the ingenius script from frank
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pearson was one of the many surprises of that movie, including the performances of a supporting actor who made me stare in awe wondering, who is that? >> come on, quit while you're ahead. get him for attempted robbery. >> armed robbery. >> the most you're going to get is five years, you get out in one year, huh? kiss me. i like to get kissed. >> you're a city cop, right? robbing a bank is a federal offense. they got me on kidnapping, armed robbery. they're going to bury me, man. i don't want to talk to someone who is trying to con me. i don't want to talk to a flunkie pig trying to con me. >> get back there!
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get over there! get over there, will ya? >> he wants to kill me so bad, he can taste it. >> that was my who's that moment with charles durning. that was when i needed to know his name. i had seen him already several times in small parts in a couple movies, including a few years earlier "the sting" which won an oscar for best picture, but "dog day afternoon" was the first time i saw charles durning's power as an actor unleashed. a few years later a lot of people had that moment with charles durning when they saw him falling in love with dustin hoffman's character in "tootsie." >> you know, i only took two pictures my whole life, my high school graduation and my wedding. my wife was standing next to me. i never said i would want
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anybody to fill her place. that changed last weekend. >> lester? >> leslie. >> leslie? >> i have to do this now or i won't get through it. i never did believe it not getting down to it. >> oh, oh, oh no. >> i know it's fast. take some time to think about it. >> please. >> if the answer is no, then i'll know you took me seriously enough to think about it. >> i just need to be alone. >> i had the honor of working with charles durning in the short-lived tv series in which he was playing a supreme court justice. i was lucky enough to hear his stories about show business, but there was so much more to his life, especially before show business. which i learned about only today reading his obituary, which rewrote my understanding of charles durning. i knew that he didn't make his professional debut as an actor until he was well into his 30s and that his big break as an
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actor came 40 years ago in the broadway hit that championship season when charles durning was 49 years old. the first thing that felt like success to him happened when he was 49 years old. as an acting student, he had been told he didn't have a chance of making it for three reasons. you're too short, you're too fat and you have no talent. and his laugh -- his laugh would make that story sound painless when he told it. as i learned today, he had more than his share of pain before becoming an actor, but those aren't the stories he told on the set. the "new york times" told me today that charles edward durning was born into poverty in 1923 in highland falls, new york on the hudson river. charles was the ninth of ten children, and five of his sisters died of smallpox or scarlet fever in childhood.
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three of them died within two weeks. and world war ii. he was in the first wave of troops to land on omaha beach on d-day. he was his unit's only survivor of the war. he was stabbed in hand-to-hand combat. he killed the german soldier who was stabbing him. had to kill him with a brick. when charles durning looked at that dead german he had just killed who seemed no more than 15 years old, he held him in his arms and cried. he was awarded three purple hearts and a silver star. "the times" points out that he avoided discussing his combat service until later in life, but it was for that service that in 2008 france awarded him the national order of the legion of honor. i'm one of the lucky writers who got to write for charles durning. it is not a small group. there are probably at least 300 of us, if you include all of the
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plays and the television episodes he's been in, including most recently seth mcfarland's "family guy" and "rescue me" where he played denis leary's father. i would run into him at the pacific diner where he would love to have big steak dinners with his pals. he only knew the last 40 years of his life, not the first 49. not his unimaginably difficult childhood, not his heroic war years. i didn't know the half of charles durning's life that would make a truly great movie. charles durning left life's stage on christmas eve. he was 89 years old. ause your dy wants that pink castle thing.
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expiration date -- oh, yeah, we're back. so guess who didn't exactly finish his christmas shopping by the close of business on christmas eve? so i'm catching up right now on the last word website, lastword.msnbc.com, making contributions to the kind fund in the name of friends and coworkers and coworkers who are friends, and they know who they are, like senior producer -- where is my list -- yes, senior producer kiana burns who will soon be getting -- i'm going to get her the scholarship. we've established a new program in the kind fund to pay girls' tuition so that girls can attend
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schools and scholarships for girls in malawi. kids' desks. we are still raising money to have kids' deskses delivered in malawi, and since i last talked to you last week we raised another $240,262 since christmas day. $203,000 were for girls' schools. i will be buying desks as holiday presents for the next several days. that's just how far behind i am on my gift giving, and you can too, of course. we've raised close to $700,000 in the month of december alone, bringing our grand total raised since we started this program two years ago to